The RNZCT Lanyard

On 12 May 1979, Officers and Soldiers of the Royal New Zealand Army Service Corps (RNZASC) marched onto paraded grounds on camps and bases across New Zealand and Singapore for the final time as the RNZASC was disbanded and its officers and soldiers split up between the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (RNZAOC) and the Royal New Zealand Corps of Transport (RNZCT). Following a short ceremony, the RNZASC Butchers, Petroleum Operators and Suppliers exchanged their RNZASC Badges and Stable belts for those of the RNZAOC. The RNZASC Cooks, Drivers, Movements Operators and Stewards, while retaining the RNZASC Stable belt, exchanged their RNZASC cap badge for the new cap badge of the RNZCT and, in recognition of the contribution and history of the RNZASC, fitted on their left shoulder a new gold and blue lanyard. Marching off with a renewed sense of elan, the soldiers of the RNZCT would wear their gold and blue lanyard with pride for the next seventeen years. However, in the years since the RNZCT Lanyard was last worn, its origins have become clouded between myth and reality, which this article will correct.

The word lanyard originates from the French word ‘lanière’, which means ‘strap’, with accounts from the late 15th century French describing how soldiers and privateers utilised ropes and cords found on ships to keep their swords, cutlasses and pistols close at hand whilst working in ships’ rigging and during combat. As with any functional military kit, lanyards evolved, with French Cuirassiers using a braided lanyard to hold their swords in place, with adoption by most militaries following. In British use, lanyards became common, used to attach pistols to uniforms, and Gunners used them to fire Artillery. In widespread use for practical purposes, the adoption of lanyards as a decorative uniform item soon followed, with coloured lanyards denoting regiments and Corps and gold lanyards used to identify senior officers.

The lanyard that the RNZCT adopted was based on the United Kingdom’s Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) lanyard that was worn until the disestablishment of the RASC in 1965. A twisted core lanyard with gold and blue strands with button loops and fixed knots at both ends, its origins have become lost to history, and some separation of myth from reality is required.

G4 – Lanyard. Royal Army Service Corps. Blue and yellow Listed 1954 as Cat No CC 1463.:https://www.britishbadgeforum.com/forums/album.php?albumid=2027&pictureid=92733

Many myths surrounding the RASC lanyards are based on the supposed withdrawal of the Royal Artillery at some unknown battle, with the guns saved by either the RASC (or its earlier equivalents), Royal Engineers, or even the Ordnance Corps. With the guns saved, the Royal Artillery was made to wear a white lanyard, and the Corps that came to the rescue were awarded the privilege of wearing a coloured lanyard. The problem with this myth is that the British Army is an institution steeped in tradition and commemorates its victories and defeats in equal measure, and there is no supporting historical evidence of such an event happening. Although it does make for great barrack-room and mess banter between regiments and Corps, it is similar to the myth of the cannon balls being larger than the cannons placed on the Ordnance cap badge as a mark of shame due to a historic logistic cock up. Like the Ordnance badge, the explanation for the colours on the RASC lanyard is purely heraldic.

The heraldic origins of the RASC lie with the Board of Ordnance, whose colours were Red, Gold and Blue. A British government body established in the Tudor period, the Board of Ordnance’s primary responsibilities were to manage the lands, depots and forts required for the defence of the realm and its overseas possessions, supply munitions and equipment to both the Army and the Navy and maintain and direct the Artillery and Engineer corps. Through the Board of Ordnance. The RASC had a common background with the Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers and Royal Army Ordnance Corps. The ASC’s roots as a uniformed military organisation can be traced to the Royal Waggoners.

Established in 1794 and then disbanded in 1799, the Royal Waggoners were reformed in 1802 as the Royal Waggon Train (RWT). Serving with distinction throughout the Napoleonic Wars, the regimental colours of the RWT were white and blue, which featured on the headdress, collars and cuff of the RWT uniform.

Corporal of the Royal Waggon Train,1815 Identifying the soldier as a member of the Royal Waggon Train are the White and Blue regimental cap or ‘chaco’, Collar and cuffs. https://www.facebook.com/Graveshistoricaluniforms

The RWT was disbanded in 1833, with its Supply functions (food, forage and Fuel) assumed by the Commissariat. Tarnished by its poor performance during the war in Crimea, the Board of Ordnance was disbanded in 1855. This resulted in the reorganisation of the British Army’s Logistic functions, including the resurrection of the transport functions of the RWT as the Land Transport Corps, which was then renamed the Military Train in 1856.[1] The provision of arms, ammunition and other critical stores was the responsibility of the Military Store Department which in turn would evolve into the Army Ordnance Corps. By 1864, the Commissariat and Military Train uniforms were both blue, with the Military Train continuing the tradition established by the RWT, with its uniform facings (collars, Cuffs and linings) being White.[2]

During the New Zealand Wars, the Commissariat, Military Train and Military Store Department all provided their respective specialist logistic functions in support of Imperial and Colonial units until the final withdrawal of imperial Forces from New Zealand in 1870. From 1869 to 1911, the Defence Stores Department coordinated supply and Transport functions required by the New Zealand Forces.

The Officers of the Commissariat, Military Train and Military Store Department were combined in 1869 into the Control Department, with the other ranks of the three branches combined into the Army Service Corps (ASC). A short-lived experiment in amalgamation, the Control Department was abolished in 1875 and replaced by the Commissariat Transport Department and Ordnance Store Department. In 1880 the Commissariat Transport Department was renamed the Commissariat and Transport Staff, with the ASC split into the Commissariat and Transport Corps and Ordnance Store Corps in 1881. The Commissariat and Transport Staff and Corps retained the Blue and White uniform distinctions with the 1883 Dress regulations noting that lace and cord fittings were to be gold.[3]  In December 1888, the Commissariat and Transport Staff and the Commissariat and Transport Corp amalgamated into a new ASC, with, for the first time, officers and other ranks serving in a single unified organisation. The ASC retained blue and white as its regimental colours, and in recognition of the service provided by the ASC in its first South Africa campaign, gold was included as part of the ASC regimental colours to “represent the gold lace on the tunic and to impart character, distinctiveness and greater beauty”.[4]

In ASC use, lanyards were generally only worn by personnel of Horse Transport companies to carry hoof picks. In 1899, ASC Corps Order 39 permitted Field Glasses and Whistles to be worn and carried by ASC officers. The pattern of the whistle to be used was the same pattern used by the Metropolitan Police attached to a silk lanyard, the colour of the frock, which by this stage was Khaki.[5]

As a result of its service during the First World War, in 1918, the ASC received the “Royal” prefix becoming the RASC and was divided into Transport and Supply Branches.

From 1940 all British army vehicles were allocated Arm of Service (AoS) markings. Located on the offside front bumper or nearby and repeated on the offside rear, the AoS sign was a 9 in (23 cm) square with a background colour specific to each AoS. In the case of the RASC, the AoS sign was diagonal red over green. White digits explained the individual units within that AoS. Adopted by all commonwealth ASC units, including the NZASC, the RASC red over green AoS sign remained in British use until 1950, when replaced by a blue and gold sign.

RASC AoS Signs Red and Green – 1940-50: Bule and Gold – 1950 -1965

In 1941, the British Army introduced coloured AoS strips to be worn on both arms of the Battle Dress uniform, with the primary colour facing forward. The RASC AoS strip was gold and blue, with blue facing forward on both arms. The RASC adopted the RASC AoS Battledress colours for the RASC lanyard, which was approved for wear by all ranks on 1 June 1950.[6]

The RASC continued to wear a gold and blue lanyard until its Supply functions were absorbed by the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC), and its Transport functions reformed into the RCT in 1965.[7] With the RASC gold and blue lanyard retired, the RCT adopted a blue lanyard.[8] A further evolution to British Army logistics occurred in 1993whern the RCT, the RAOC, the Army Catering Corps, The Royal Engineers Postal and Courier Service, and the Royal Pioneer Corps were all disbanded and reformed as the Royal Logistic Corps (RLC). With each foundation Corps of the RLC having values, traditions and dress embellishments, many compromises were made to carry as many as possible into the RLC. For example, the RAOC appointment of the Conductor was retained as a whole of RLC appointment. In the case of the RASC lanyard, it was also retained as the RLC lanyard.[9]

Following the departure of the Imperial Forces from New Zealand, the Defence Stores Department coordinated the Supply and Transport requirements of the New Zealand Forces. Based on the lessons of the War in South Africa, the Defence Act of 1909 laid the framework for a significant reorganisation of New Zealand’s Military Forces, including the formation of the New Zealand Army Service Corps (NZASC) on 12 May 1910 to be organised and trained by ASC Captain Henry Owen Knox.[10] Appointed as a Lieutenant Colonel in New Zealand’s Military Forces, Knox grew and shaped the NZASC in the years leading up to the First World War.

With the New Zealand Forces adopting a standard Khaki field service uniform, a system of distinguishing colour piping on cuffs, collars and epaulettes was introduced with GHQ Circular 10 of 2 February 1911 identifying white as the NZASC colour. The Dress Regulations of 1912 reinforced white as the NZASC distinguishing colour, expanding its use to stripes on trousers, forages caps and puggarees on felt slouch hats.[11]  The use of white piping on Khaki uniforms ceased during World War One. However, the NZASC Khaki/White/Khaki puggaree remained in use until 1960, when the Lemon squeezer hat and Corps puggaree was replaced by the Cap Battledress (Cap BD).

New Zealand Army Service Corps Puggaree. Robert McKie collection

During the Second World War, white continued to be the colour used on NZASC uniform distinguishing patches, except for NZASC units of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Pacific (2NZEF (IP)) who wore an unofficial patch in the RASC vehicle AoS colours of diagonal red over green on their puggarees.[12]  After Serving with distinction in both World Wars, in 1946, the NZASC received the “Royal” prefix becoming the RNZASC. The RNZASC received further accolades for its service in Korea from 1950 to 1955, where the vehicles of 10 Transport Company RNZASC continued to use the diagonal red over green AoS sign with the digits 72.

During the 1950s, the RNZASC followed the British lead and ceased using the diagonal red over green AoS sign, replacing it with diagonal and horizontal blue and gold A0S signs, concurrently unit signage emblazoned with backgrounds of blue and gold became commonplace.

Allied with the RASC since 1921 and the RCT since 1965, the RNZASC was one of the last New Zealand Corps to seek approval to adopt a Stable belt. With some individuals already wearing the unauthorised RASC belt that had been discontinued in 1965, the RNZASC requested and granted permission to adopt the RCT pattern stable belt in September 1973.

Following the lead of the United Kingdom and Australia, who had reorganised their Supply and Transport services in 1965 and 1973, the RNZASC began the final planning to transform the RNZASC into the RNZCT in 1978. Eager to ease the restructuring of the Corps by incorporating linkages with the past in a dress embellishment, Lieutenant Colonel Steve Davies, the Director of Supply and Transport (DST) and Major Wally Fraser of the Supply and Transport Directorate introduced the idea of an RNZCT lanyard. Plaiting two samples by hand, Major Fraser provided two samples in the RASC colours of gold and blue for approval by the Army Dress Committee.[13]

Earlier attempts by other Corps to introduce lanyards had been previously rejected as the Army was unwilling to encourage a proliferation of unnecessary dress embellishments.[14]  However, Lt Col Davis and Major Fraser provided a convincing argument with Army General Staff providing authority for wearing lanyards within the RNZCT at public expense in early 1979.[15] The new lanyards were to be manufactured by RNZASC personnel with the cordage provided by the RNZAOC. To allow the manufacture of the lanyards to be completed by 12 May 1979, based on a calculation of 2 meters of navy blue cordage and 1 meter of gold cordage for each lanyard, sufficient cordage was provided to each dependency by 1 April 1979, including sufficient cordage to manufacture 100 lanyards priority mailed to Singapore.[16]  Following a flurry of manufacturing activity within RNAZSC units, sufficient RNZCT lanyards were produced before the change over parades on 12 May 1979, with the lanyard becoming an established RNZCT dress embellishment.

As only the cordage was provided at public expense, with the plating into a lanyard the responsibility of individual RNZCT soldiers, the Director of Transport Movements and Catering (DTMC), Lieutenant Colonel J.M Young was concerned about the differences in quality between lanyards and how that reflected on the RNZCT. The white Military Police and red Regular Force Cadet lanyards were provided and manufactured items, and the DRMC proposed in March 1986 that the RNZCT lanyard also be provided as a manufactured item.[17]

On reviewing the DMTC proposal, the Director of Ordnance Services (DOS), Lieutenant Colonel Terence McBeth, found that there was a discrepancy in the policy surrounding the RNZCT lanyards and that the policy be amended to bring the RNZCT lanyard policy into line with the other Corps that were entitled to lanyards.[18] Army General Staff endorsed the DOS’s recommendations, and from May 1986, the RNZCT Lanyard was provided as a standardised made-up lanyard.[19]

The RNZCT lanyard was worn on the left arm with pride by officers and soldiers of the RNZCT up to 1996 when in a similar initiative to the British Army’s formation of the RLC, the NZ Army also combined its logistic functions into a single Logistic Regiment. The significant difference between the British and New Zealand logistical changes was that the Royal New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RNZEME) was also disestablished and included in the New Zealand Logistic Regiment.

On 9 December 1996, the Officers and Soldiers of the RNZCT, RNZAOC and RNZEME marched onto parade grounds on each camp and base. Corps flags were lowered, headwear and stable belts exchanged, and the Officers and Soldiers marched off as members of the Royal New Zealand Army Logistic Regiment (RNZALR). The transition into the RNZALR was bittersweet for the soldiers of the RNZCT. RNZALR leadership took the opposite approach to the RLC, and rather than embracing its foundation Corps’ values and traditions, it divorced itself from the past and abandoned most linkages to the past, including the RNZCT lanyard.

A dress embellishment Intended to ease the formation of the RNZCT by incorporating linkages with the RNZASC, the RNZCT Lanyard was unimaginative and relied on colours representing the traditions of the RASC rather than the RNZASC. For the sixty years from 1911 to 1960, the RNZASC had an exceptional record of service in peace and war, represented by white, red and green. From 1911 to 1960, white was present on RNZASC uniforms as piping, distinguishing patches and puggaree. From 1940 until the mid-1950s, RNZASC vehicles in the Middle East, Pacific, Korea and at home wore the diagonal red and green AoS sign. With Gold and Blue only representing the RNZASC from the mid-1950s to 1979. However, despite its historical irrelevance, the RNZCT Lanyard was an attractive embellishment that provided soldiers of the RTNZCT with a sense of elan on parade and much banter in clubs and messes as they baited gunners with tall stories of how their predecessors had saved guns abandoned by the Artillery.


Notes

[1] “The Land Transport Corps,” Hansard 1803-2005  (1858).

[2] Horse Guards Adjutant-General, Dress Regulations for the Army (London: Printed under the Superintendence of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1864).

[3] Dress Regulations for the Army,  (London: Printed under the Superintendence of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1883).

[4] “Yelow of Gold,” The Waggoner: The Journal of the Royal Army Service Corps  (1945): 59.

[5] “Extracts from Corps Orders,” The Waggoner: The Journal of the Royal Army Service Corps  (1899): 299.

[6] Len Whittaker, ” Lanyards,” The Military Historical Society  (1985).

[7] “Formation of the Royal Corps of Transport,” The Waggoner: The Journal of the Royal Army Service Corps  (1965): 7.

[8] “Badges, Chevrons, Titles, Embelishmets and Head Dress,” Clothing Regulations Pamphlet No 5. Table 56- Regimental Lanyards  (1966).

[9] “Lanyard and Whistle Cords,” Army Dress Regulations Part 9 Section 7 Annex D  (2017).

[10] “Captain H.O Knox,” The Waggoner: The Journal of the Royal Army Service Corps  (1911).

[11] New Zealand Military Forces Dress Regulations, ed. New Zealand Military Forces (Wellington1912).

[12] Malcolm Thomas and Cliff Lord, New Zealand Army Distinguishing Patches, 1911-1991 (Wellington, N.Z. : M. Thomas and C. Lord, 1995, 1995), Bibliographies, Non-fiction, 57.

[13] Julia Millen, Salute to Service : A History of the Royal New Zealand Corps of Transport and Its Predecessors, 1860-1996 (Wellington : Victoria University Press, 1997, 1997), 415-16.

[14] {, 1971 #1907}

[15] S&T 14/1 dated 22 February 1979. “Conferences – Policy and General – NZ Army Dress Committee 1985-86,” Archives New Zealand No R17311895  (1985 – 1986).

[16] DOS 109/4/Ord 5 Cordage for RNZCT Lanyard dated 5 March 1979. Ibid.

[17] RNZCT Log Staff 18400/1 RNZCT Lanyards dated 10 March 1986. Ibid.

[18] RNZAOC Directorate Army 1845/Ord 1 RNZCT Lanyards Dated 8 May 1986. Ibid.

[19] DOC 18453/ord 1 RNZCT Lanyards Dated 14 May 1985. Ibid.

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